When tornados and severe storms struck Alabama in late April, local resident Celesta Bridgeforth flashed back to how upsetting and disorienting it had been to lose her home to a tornado in 2011.
“’Brain scramble’ is what you feel,” she said. “One minute I was standing in my kitchen and the next moment the house was in sticks. I wondered, ‘What do I do now?’ I know what it’s like to reach for something you always had at hand ― a toothbrush, a sponge ― and it’s not there.”
Every year, thousands of U.S. local congregations and other groups, individuals and families volunteer to assemble CWS Kits for distribution locally and globally to people in situations just like Bridgeforth’s. The Kits are small packages of supplies that can make a world of difference in an ongoing development program or in disaster situations.
Presbyterian Disaster Assistance of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is one of many church agencies that works closely with CWS.
“We received a CWS Emergency Cleanup Bucket at that time. It wasn’t a million bucks but it was nice, convenient and timely and sure did help when I’d lost almost everything and didn’t know what was going on.
“So when the tornados hit this April, the first thing that popped into my mind was the cleanup buckets,” Bridgeforth said. “I contacted our pastor about getting some for people in our area who’d been affected.”
The Rev. Gary Myers and Trinity Congregational United Church of Christ in Athens requested 20 CWS Emergency Cleanup Buckets. Recipients included five siblings of church member Beverly Kirby, four of whose homes were completely demolished and the fifth made unlivable but repairable.
In all, the April tornados and storms killed five people in Alabama and destroyed 96 homes. They caused major damage to 130 homes and minor damage to 205 more, according to an early assessment. Two dozen tornados touched down throughout central and northern Alabama. It was the fourth largest tornado outbreak in state history.
Many homes had their roofs torn off. Then pouring rain soaked the interiors of many otherwise salvageable homes.
Shipments of CWS Emergency Cleanup Buckets ― 250 to Christian Service Mission in Birmingham and 500 to the Jefferson County Multi-Agency Disaster Warehouse in Bessemer ― made it possible for tornado survivors to clean up their houses. CWS also sent 1,520 CWS Hygiene Kits for Alabama tornado survivors.
The CWS Emergency Cleanup Buckets and CWS Hygiene Kits are benefiting tornado survivors in multiple locations across Jefferson and Limestone counties ― including Athens, in Limestone County.
“This is rainy season. Subsequent to the tornados, the area has suffered bad weather,” said Heather Turney of Birmingham, Ala., acting head of Lutheran Ministries of Alabama and president of the Jefferson County VOAD, or Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster.
“There are a lot of people without tarps, or whose tarps weren’t put on correctly. After the rain, they had to clean up all that water and fight mildew and black mold,” she said. “The CWS Emergency Cleanup Buckets and CWS Hygiene Kits are needed for ongoing relief and for long-term recovery.”
Veronica Edwards-Johnson, disaster coordinator for the Adventist Community Services Central Alabama Federation, manages the Jefferson County warehouse. Edwards-Johnson noted that tornado survivors “are very grateful” for the CWS supplies. She said, “As people looked through the buckets, many remarked, ‘Oh yeah, I need this!’”